DW: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Toby C
Devizes to Westminster is an international canoe race of 125 miles (this year 108 miles due to covid complications in London), and is one of the most incredible events, with both Olympic athletes and mere school children pouring out blood sweat and tears… literally.
I take part in a decent amount of “stuff” at RHS but being on the DW team has been the highlight of it all. The event was one of the most amazing experiences ever. It’s a hard thing to describe because I wouldn’t say it was exactly fun. We paddled thirty plus miles a day, eating in your boat, peeing in your boat (you get used to it) and constantly paddling. Its intense. Then you get off the water and you’re in tents. Despite the poor attempt at a pun the fact still remains that after seven hours of straight paddling we would then have to camp by the river, setting up the tents and cooking with no outside support.
I make the camping part sound bad but honestly it was my favourite part. We had great weather and we would enjoy our evenings (all complaining of crippling back pain) eating our slightly undercooked pasta and laughing through the pain and the fatigue. Both nights we had a great little RHS yoga session which brought immense amounts of amusement to the other competitors but was so worth it the next day!
We couldn’t have done the race without our amazing support crew, AKA our parents. At each portage they would feed us bits and bobs of food, change our water, tape our blisters, and send us on our way. Almost a formula 1 pit stop if you like. Although portages give you a break from paddling, they are by no means the easy bit. Sometimes we had to run 500 meters with the boat on our shoulders, to then be force fed bits of banana and chocolate while you discreetly try to pee while holding on to the portage so there is less chance of falling in!
The support crew however were brilliant. I think it says a lot about our parents and due to the amount of enjoyment they got out watching their children suffer. They all got on great and made our lives so much easier. We genuinely couldn’t have done it without them. Jacob and I missed one support crew (our own decision) and went 9 miles without any help. That was the worst decision we made and the worst 9 miles of the race! That was when we realized how important and how much we needed our support crew. You would be surprised how many calories can be stuffed into your mouth in 30 seconds!
However, over and above the support crew two men made the DW experience the best. Mr. Pooley and Mr. Thomson are absolute legends. Mr. T used to teach at RHS and retired a few years before I joined bus still helps out with kayaking. He used to be a duty tutor in Collingwood so obviously he would naturally be amazing, and likewise Mr. P used to be the housemaster of the greatest house of all time! (NB: I am an unbiased author). These guys gave up so much of their time to help us get ready for the event, and then gave up their Easter weekend to spend it with us! Their sense of humour got us through the 108 miles. They probably have better things to do with there time than read bubble articles but if you do see this THANK YOU!
I genuinely loved every second of it, and if it’s something you are thinking about doing I would definitely recommend. I hope this gave you a little glimpse into what DW is like, but it is hard to put it into words, so have a look at the video I made below!